As the Gaulish Polytheist revival continues on and grows, the names of the Dêuoi (Gods) become more known. No doubt as more find their way to Them, some will find themselves drawn particularly to a few. Some will find themselves drawn to a specific one, even. This is far from uncommon in Polytheist religions today. Nor was it uncommon in the past.
Greek and Roman sources mention priests of their Gods. This is also found in Norse sources, though less widely. Temples or sacred spaces — in whatever language they are called, are sometimes dedicated to one deity or another. Today, there are still, in places where Polytheism remains in unbroken traditions, dedicants, as well as priestesses or priests of certain Gods. This isn’t often to the exclusion of other Gods, but sometimes one is particularly important for whatever reason.
For myself, that is certainly the case. I certainly wouldn’t call myself a Cassidanus (Priest) as I haven’t earned the title. However, I am heavily involved in the worship of Taranis. Those familiar with some of my works will note that He often is the at the center of, or features in them. Any time He is mentioned, I can go on and on about Him. I give offerings to Him often, and often reflect and meditate on Him and what He represents.
So before I go into my own details of worship, the experiential end of things, I’d like to talk about what we either know, or is commonly accepted knowledge about Him. The name Taranis literally means “thunder”. The root “taran” is the word for thunder in Welsh, Breton, and Cornish. All three are daughter languages of Brythonic, which was closely related to Gaulish. Furthermore, Taranis was also worshipped in Britain.
Taranus and Tanaros (both provided by Garret Olmsted) are other versions of His name. Through His name, it’s clear that He is a god of thunder. The most ubiquitous symbol associated with Him is the Rotos (wheel). We see votive wheels often, and though the number of spokes vary, six and eight are the most common found. That said, it doesn’t mean that all wheel motifs found in the Gaulish world were associated with Taranis. The thunderbolt, as well as a club, likely to represent the thunderbolt, is the other more commonly known symbol associated with Him.
Now that we have covered some of the bare facts about Him… What can we say about Him in practice? What does He do? As a god of thunder, we can certainly say that He rules over storms. Thunder, lightning obviously, rain would be a fair conclusion, and wind a likely one. All of these things relate to storms. Just off of these bare bones, we can think on what He may have been thought to do. Rain gives life to the soil, enabling crops to grow. This of course affects not only farmers, but the rest of us. After all, we all eat what they grow.
With lightning, we see the destructive power of Taranis. However, lightning also adds nitrates to the soil, again providing something needed for crops to grow. Though the ancient ones likely didn’t know about nitrates, they may have known that lightning was good for soil. No doubt they knew of lightning’s power. Here we see both destruction and creation. That ability to end or restore life.
In thunder, we have a force that can shake the ground, and that can be heard from the sky. As if the sky bellows, making presence known. Some would say that Taranis might also be the Gaulish Sky Father. Another prominent point is the Jupiter columns found along the Rhine. This is at the edge of Gallo-Roman terrirory, and on them, Jupiter is slaying a giant or monster of some kind. In other Indo-European religions, the god of thunder does this. Thor and Indra come to mind, as gods related to thunder slaying an opponent that is monstrous and a threat to order.
He was also seen as a warrior, likely as a protector as well. Especially if looking at neighboring Thunaraz of the Germanic peoples at the time. The Berne Scholia calls Taranis a “master of war”. So we have a Dêuos in Taranis who knows battle. His struggles with forces of chaos allude to this, if not battle in the sense of warriors as we know them.
Now, onto the title of this article which is translated to “My worship of Taranis”. My understanding of Him is in line with the things I described earlier, for the most part. I too see Him as a god of thunder, rain, wind, and lightning. These are relatively easy.
As storms are more common in the summer, it is the first quarter moon closest to the summer solstice, a holiday I call Samolitus (Summer Feast) that is dedicated to Him. As He is a slayer of chaotic beings, it may also be that His Ueronados (celestial) aspect of which He is unrivaled signifies a victory of summer over a chaotic opponent representing winter. As it is far from uncommon for thunder gods to slay opponents from the deep, I do not feel it is a stretch to apply that to Taranis. So the time of greatest light is quite fitting.
There is, in Taranis, a thunder god with aspects of a Sky Father — when looking at the wheel, a sign of cosmic order. With the armored depiction of Taranis, it appears eagles may be associated with Him. Due to the strength and potential ferocity of thunder gods, bulls are another possible animal that may be assiciated with Him. This happens to be something of a shared gnosis that I and several other have. Another would be that He is associated with oak trees, as many other thunder gods are, it seems fair that He would be as well.
Much of the depictions of Taranis have Him shown with the thunderbolt and wheel. The thunderbolt has the destructive and restorative functions I discussed earlier. The wheel, is a different matter entirely. In the case of Taranis, it isn’t likely a solar symbol. If it were, it would be pretty odd to have a solar wheel depicted with a god whose name is Gaulish for “thunder”. Plus, with all Roman deities that *do* have solar attributes, Taranis isn’t equated with Them.
So, what does the wheel mean? There is the idea of “rolling thunder” and that is a fair statement. As we enter the field of conjecture, it seems appropriate to refer to my own, from my meditations on this symbol under personal gnosis. As far as I can tell, the Rotos (wheel) means many things.
Rolling thunder? Sure. When the wheel is associated with the sky and cosmos, it seems fitting that a thunder god may wield it. Along with that, there is motion, perpetual and constant. In that, we see order. The Samos principle made manifest. Taranis protects and maintains order, able to continue or end life. To preserve or to take.
So, what do we have? In Taranis, the force of destruction, yet able to preserve and continue the cycle of life. Perhaps even bringing life when we look at Him as a rain bringer. We have a warrior protector, but one who protects all. Not just the warrior or the ruler. We see in the wheel order, and what maintains order is truth. So that we can look at Him as one who rules over truth to the benefit of order.
Though we must remember that maintaining order isn’t the same as maintaining the “status quo”. As true order cannot exist without truth. When putting our worship of Him forth into real life, by following His example, we should look for truth in our own lives. Endeavoring to live in truth, to do what is right so that there can be real order, and not just the illusion of it.
For those willing to reflect and reach out, Taranis offers much to His worshippers. It is on us to look for that truth. Then to truly listen.
Need more info and perspective on Taranis?
Ceisiwr Serith has a video on YouTube.
Segomâros Widugeni has a good short article on Him.
Kevin Jones has a really good dissertation on the wheel.
*** I didn’t want to make this article unwieldy, so check out some of the other works I have that mention Taranis!***